Are you one of the estimated 18% of Britons who has regular problems sleeping or one of the 58% that has a poor night’s rest at least one night a week? If so, did you know that doing more regular exercise could be the answer to your prayers? A good night’s sleep is of crucial importance to maintaining our physical, emotional and mental health and it has been proven that not getting enough hours sleep at night can contribute to many health problems such as obesity, diabetes and even cancer. We all have a sleeping pattern that is unique to us, with some people needing as little as four hours a night and some up to eleven hours, but it is important that, however long we naturally sleep, we do get our requisite hours of peaceful slumber.
So how can exercise help your insomnia? Firstly, physical exercise tires your body out, causing you to feel sleepy and easily drift off when your head hits the pillow. You only have to look at how young children crash out after an afternoon on the beach or running around in the park to see this in action. You also get an amazing feeling of satisfaction after a strenuous exercise session, especially if you have been out in the fresh air. Setting up a regular exercise programme is a wonderful way to alleviate any stress and anxiety that you have been feeling, helping you to get to sleep faster and then stay asleep throughout the night.
There have been several studies undertaken that have strongly suggested that exercise can help your insomnia. One such study was undertaken at a US university, where 2,600 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 engaged in moderate to intense physical activity for 2 ½ hours a week. 65% of the participants reported that their sleeping had improved and also that they felt more awake and energetic during the day. The study also showed that 68% of the participants who suffered from leg cramps at night noticed an improvement in their symptoms and 45% reported that they had less trouble concentrating during their waking hours. There was also a poll undertaken in 2003 by the National Sleep Foundation that showed that the respondents who regularly exercised three or more times a week slept better than those who reported less activity.
There was another study undertaken by Brazilian scientists who were looking at whether upping exercise rates would help alleviate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome at night. They had two groups. One group was required to exercise for three days a week for a period of six months so that they could gauge if long term higher levels of activity would help and another group were assessed after they had completed only one intense session at the gym. Both of the groups reported that their restless legs symptoms improved and that their quality of sleep was also better. The researchers thought that these improvements were down to the endorphins that were released in their bodies when they exercised causing them to sleep better, and so not awaken when their legs were restless during the night.
Surprisingly, it has been shown that even people who suffer from chronic fatigue can improve their symptoms through exercise. In studies involving patients suffering from ME, it was found that around 60% gained some level of relief from their debilitating fatigue when they were encouraged to gently start increasing their levels of activity in a process called Gradual Exercise Therapy (GET)
But although increasing your levels of activity will help you with your insomnia, there are better times to exercise than others. In order to relax and then naturally fall asleep, it’s a good idea to gradually cut down on stimulation as the evening goes on. This includes dimming the lights, cutting out caffeine and alcohol, turning off computers and TVs and not doing really vigorous exercise. When we are intensively working out, our bodies release a lot of hormones. These can take up to three hours for our bodies to metabolise, so it’s a good idea to leave enough time for this before you want to try nodding off. Exercise also raises our core body temperature. When we sleep our core body temperature naturally falls, reaching its lowest at around three in the morning, so you will sleep better if you give yourself time to cool down before you go to bed. If you do want to work out late at night, try something relaxing like yoga that will calm your mind down as well as tone and stretch your body.
So if you want to try a healthy, natural way of getting a better night’s rest that does not involve sleeping pills, start a regular exercise programme. If you have never exercised before or if you have any health issues, it might be a good idea to consult your medical practitioner for advice before you start. But with so many wonderful ways that you can exercise, from walking, running, swimming, team games, classes and gym sessions, you are bound to find some physical activity that you really enjoy and that will help you get a really good night’s sleep. So go and choose some wonderful luxurious bedlinen from The Fine Cotton Company and spruce up your bedroom now, as you will be spending so much longer enjoying your sleep!